Field Radio Kit Gallery: VA7EKA’s Yaesu FT-857D Field Kit

Many thanks to Andrew (VA7EKA) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page.

You may note that this isn’t a QRP radio, but the FT-857D will run QRP power! If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post. Check out Andrew’s field kit below:

Yaesu FT-857D off-grid portable kit

Andrew (VA7EKA)

As part of my amateur radio operations, I’ve quickly seen the advantage of having a small, portable radio I can operate anywhere and deploy quickly. Especially as I don’t have a permanent HF antenna installation at home, being able to set up in the yard (or even indoors) in a pinch is pretty high on the list of requirements for me.

I started reading online and watching videos about this topic, and found an excellent video from KT7RUN “The Tech Prepper” (and an earlier one) which showed a super-slick portable radio setup featuring the Yaesu FT-857D. Prior to finding those videos, I had already acquired an FT-857D due to its all-band, all-mode operation and compact size, and Gaston KT7RUN’s kit seemed like a very compelling setup for this radio.

Here’s what I’ve ended up with for my off-grid-capable “grab’n’go” radio station:


Currently this is the inventory for this kit:

Antenna options:

and for charging this station in the field…


Of course, the core of this kit is the radio. It’s popular for a reason. All-band, all-mode “shack in a box” in a truly portable form factor. Capable of 100w operation, it’s more than enough to make whatever contacts you need. In my case, because the battery has a max 20A continuous-discharge specification, I wouldn’t actually transmit at a full 100w with this exact configuration. Not a problem – I’m not expecting to transmit at those levels with a pack of this size.

The pack frame is truly solid, though it adds a good amount of weight (1.364lbs with all options). It’s absolutely worth it though. Not only does it provide rigidity and protection, it also provides convenient mount points for attachments, like the relocated antenna connections and Digirig holster. I could securely attach additional items if needed.

The battery just fits into the MOLLE pouch which is pretty lucky. I got a small PowerPole distribution block so I can not only connect the radio to the battery, but also the Genasun solar charge controller and whatever other power-related accessories I might use (e.g. Dakota Lithium’s 5v USB charger which I’ve adapted to PowerPole). Solar-wise, the charge controller I went with has a little more capacity than what I’m using currently with the 75w panel. I figured I should bump up to the 10amp charge controller to allow for a larger solar panel later on.

For CW operation I’ve relocated the jack with a basic 3.5mm audio extension cable going up through the bag and looped through the PALS webbing on the High Ground Gear PRC-117G bag. For a key I’m usually packing a basic 3d-printed iambic paddle I got at a swap meet for $20. I’d love a N0SA SP4 paddle but… $$$ :‘D

In the following photos you can see how I’ve laid out the relocation cables. I specifically took photos of these to show people who want to re-create this kit, because it was pretty tedious to get it all in there. Hopefully these will save someone a bit of time. 😉

All in all, this kit weighs in at 11 pounds. It’s a bit heavy to carry for a SOTA activation, but for POTA it’s no problem at all. I have indeed carried it up to a SOTA summit, but HF propagation conditions were poor and I was really struggling to make any contacts. Ended up resorting to activating on 2m with a tape measure Yagi. 😉

Because of the PALS webbing on the PRC-117G bag, this portable kit could be strapped to a larger backpack as needed, though typically I have just carried the kit inside my backpack, to keep the weight closer to my body. Perhaps more notably, additional accessory pouches could be attached, like a pouch for logbook/pencil/antennas/CW key etc.


So how is this kit to actually use? In a word, awesome. Drop it on the ground or on a table, deploy and attach an antenna, turn on the power. If I’m expecting to be on air for a long time, I can attach the solar charge controller and solar panel to keep the station running (though I have yet to do this while operating, since I completed this kit very recently). I can go out into the field and use this setup indefinitely, regardless of available electrical infrastructure.

For digital operations, I have a ToughBook CF-31 which is fully configured with all relevant software I’d typically use. This is great for tossing in the vehicle for a POTA activation, and even feasible for SOTA if you’re in great shape or willing to carry the extra weight. An alternative for digital ops could be a lightweight single-board-computer, tablet, or netbook, of course.

Just for fun, here’s a map of most of the QSOs I’ve made with this rig since putting it together. It’s not exhaustive, but what I could quickly gather up for this post. 133 contacts across 11 countries. The furthest contact thus far is with VK2WN on 30m FT8, at a nice 11965km (7435mi) distance, with just 5watts of output power on my side. Nice!

If you have any questions about this kit or would like additional details, please feel free to reach out. I’d also be curious to hear from anyone who follows this build and creates their own variation!

73 de VA7EKA

11 thoughts on “Field Radio Kit Gallery: VA7EKA’s Yaesu FT-857D Field Kit”

  1. Good job Andrew and thanks for sharing.! It’s been exactly a year now since I sold that 857D to you and I’m so happy you’re enjoying it. You’ve done a nice job of configuring a field kit using Gaston’s example.

    73 my friend,
    Brent VA3YG

    1. haha, hey, it’s great to hear from you Brent! Wow, you’re right, it was almost exactly a year ago, within a week or so! Nice.. well, yeah you can see it has gone to good use thus far. Such a fun rig, and versatile. I really hope Yaesu comes up with a proper successor at some point soon.

      Now I just need to spend more on-air time in the “CW” mode, particularly… still working on that first QSO hahaha 🙂

      Cheers and 73!!

      -Andrew VA7EKA

  2. I love my 857. It’s the one I reach for when heading to the woods.

    Looking around on’s swap meet forum and Main Trading’s used page, I see that working 857’s are going for well over $1k. Yaesu really ought to give this thing a parts refresh and bring it back.

  3. I wonder how long that 20 AHr battery will last with the FT857D. Most QRP rigs draw little current on rcv and xmt compared to the FT857. I bet even on rcv it draws a few Amps and just keying it with no RF output one will see a few Amps. I do like his setup for the FT857D, that military back pack is nice and the radio fits well inside it. 73, ron, n9ee

    1. Hi Ron,

      Great question, I can’t believe I didn’t cover this in the post. I knew I missed something!

      The rig draws about 0.5a on RX, with the display backlight off (raises to about 0.6a when backlight is on). It’s not perfect, but not too bad either. I definitely can’t complain, considering all the capabilities this transceiver offers.

      I’ve been able to operate for a few hours of casual FT8 at QRP levels, varying between, say, 5-30w RF output power. I’ve not yet ever actually run the battery low enough to require shutting down. Usually the limiting factor is time constraint, not battery level, fortunately! (or.. maybe.. unfortunately?! haha, if only time wasn’t a factor when on-air!)

      Thanks for the question and glad you found the setup interesting. Take care and 73,

      -Andrew VA7EKA

    2. Off the top of my head, about 1/4-1/2 amp on receive and on transmit 15-ish. I’ve had no trouble going out for an afternoon of heavy event operating on a 12 AH LiFePO4. With a 27 watt solar panel and controller, and dialing back the TX power to 25 watts, I’ve camped and operated for over three days with it. Now, mind you, that is with a LiFePO4 battery, so it doesn’t mind being drawn down. With a lead-acid battery though, something in the 25-ish AH range would do about the same.

      I will say though, my 817nd gear weighs in at 5 lbs while the 857d and associated kit comes in at 15 lbs. That’s a HUGE difference when hiking any distance.

      1. It is sure nice having a 100 watt capability in a small package which can be adjusted down as needed. Considering LIFE PO4 batteries are so light with so much more current capability the 10 lb difference is well worth it. Drawing more current than the new rigs is no big deal with the new light weight PO4 batteries, just opt for a higher current battery. Comforting, having the extra power as back up. Oh, the band is starting to go out, quick turn up the power a little to adjust accordingly.

  4. Andrew, Thanks for the report. That’s a man’s Manpack! Solid components an outstanding performance. I’m a Yaesu believer!

    I’m not as ‘tactical’ as I once was, my gear is more conventional. But I admire what you’ve done. Well done!

    de W7UDT

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